Monthly Archives: February 2013

Our Eclectic Lives

You have likely noticed my blog is a bit eclectic–a post on fitness is followed by a post waxing spiritual or philosophical which is followed by a post about the natural world or backpacking or fly fishing or whatever. The thought has crossed my mind that I would likely get more readers if I stuck to a more specified theme or developed more than one blog and built each around a particular topic. Such an approach suits the Western mind which is very adept at classifying and compartmentalizing. We have a work life and a home life and a personal life and spiritual life and on and on and on it goes. Sometimes we even consciously act to keep these aspects of life apart from one another.

But a simple truth of our living is that try as we might, our life doesn’t have neat little compartments that we walk into and out of. Life is in fact holistic–the different aspects of our lives interact with one another constantly on both conscious and subconscious levels. Work seeps over into home and vice versa. Our health affects just about everything we do and how  we view the world can have much to do with both our mental and physical health.

Additionally, everything we do as individuals happens interactively with the rest of the world as whole, including not only human culture but also our impact on the natural world in which the human culture exists and upon which it depends. Truly no one is an island, and even should we try that act itself would influence in its own way.

So my blog will stay eclectic because my life is–because our human life is and all life is. While I will no doubt emphasize certain topics due to my experience and interests, I will try to keep myself open to new ideas and experiences. No human mind can learn it all nor experience it all, at least not while wrapped in the finitude of our current existence, but it seems to me that the wider our experience here the deeper and richer it will be. And since we are here, living and breathing and learning and loving, why not engage everything with all the depth and richness we can?

Categories: Body, Mind, Miscellany, Nature, Outdoors, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Alive

Confession: I haven’t been running as often as I would have liked since the first of the year. I have a full quiver of the usual excuses…too tired, not enough time, it’s raining, it’s snowing…the usual suspects. That said, in fits and starts I have been moving forward, quite literally one step at a time.

It would help if all the enjoyable runs beginning at my house didn’t start with an uphill. A steep uphill at that. It makes perfect sense though–generally speaking the higher we rise the more beauty avails itself to us which is likely why we often seek the tops of mountains. So yesterday, having no intention of climbing to the top of the mountain, I laced up my shoes and put one foot in front of the other headed on an up grade.

All my runs seem to begin the same way–with me questioning why I do this. It can seem like “vanity and striving after the wind”. After all, no matter how well I take care of myself I am still gonna wind up at the same place (yes, I’m talking about physical mortality but trying to avoid the “D” word). Before my body begins to find a groove, running is a real grind. My body and my mind always seem to argue for a bit but I am never quite sure which one is arguing to quit and grab a bowl of chips. A beautiful thing though…my feet always seem to keep moving.

Yesterday, I did things a bit differently. I climbed the initial grade at a fast walk. As the ground began to level, I jogged a short interval, walked again, then ran a short distance at not quite a sprint. I found myself falling into a pattern of walking and running. And noticing. Not thinking but seeing, hearing, and feeling. Seeing the snowflakes falling softly. Hearing the happy and gentle rumble of the little stream that parallels the road. Noting each breath and the pressure of my feet on the ground. Feeling the life inside me expanding to every part of my body like the quickening of the cosmic life every spring.

Almost before I realized, I was at the top of  the nearly two-mile climb from my house, and it was lovely. Every breath drew in the stillness of the woods and the quiet of the lightly falling snow. Every footfall resonated life and  the sheer energy of it.  I broke my pattern of intervals and just let my body glide back down the hill toward home. I’m not sure I have ever been more fully aware in life. I saw myself connected to all things.

I’m sure you are thinking it was just the endorphins kicking in, and I agree to some extent. I love how our bodies can treat themselves to a high. But it was more than a high. It was meditative. It was engagement not just with the run, but with everything around it and required for it–body, mind, earth, air, water, and the fire at the foundation of life. And I remembered something so fundamental it almost seems primeval. I don’t really run for fitness or to look a certain way. I run because I’m alive, and running is an expression of the the primitive joy of  it all. In running, I’m not a grown-up with all the artificially cultivated responsibilities of our so-called civilization. No–in running I’m a child on a playground, a fawn in the woods, a stream tumbling down a mountain. Good things to be, every one.

Categories: Body, Mind, Nature, Outdoors, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Neighbors (Part 2)

Where were we? Oh yes…we started with a reference to a television show: The Neighbors, ABC’s little comedy about two very different but still very much alike families learning to live together amid the madness of the the modern world. Somehow, from there we ended up thinking about love. Or maybe we should say “inevitably” instead of “somehow”, because when alike-but-different people try to live together we are going to wind up with either love or one of its opposites–apathy or enmity. There really are no other choices.

Have you noticed that there is very little argument about the desirability of love? We may haggle a bit over definition or application but as to the essence of love itself, there seems to be very little debate. I’ve yet to hear anyone say “The problem with the world today is there is just too much love” or anyone complain “My life would be so much better if there wasn’t so much love in it.” No. We love love! We enjoy it and and revel in it and cry over its loss. We don’t need wise ones to tell us without love we have nothing because we intuitively know it in our hearts.

This love of love begs a question though–why is it so hard? Why is love so much work? Why doesn’t it come easier to us? Why do we so easily slide toward apathy and enmity when the fruits of such are so visible in our broken world? I’m fairly confident there is no one-word answer to these questions, but I’m going to offer one anyway–protection. Protection? Isn’t that generally a good thing? The answer to that question is easier–it depends on what you’re protecting, and in the world we live in it is easy to protect the wrong things.  I’m going to use myself as a bad example here.

The other night I was sitting with my wife enjoying the evening when we were interrupted. I didn’t react well. In fact. I acted like a baby. Exactly like a baby. By that, I mean my primary motivator in the moment was my very smallest self–my ego, which didn’t want to share or play well with others. Rationally, I know better. I know that shrinking to my smallest self never brings more happiness or light into the world. But I did it anyway. I literally became, for a short period of time, that little child we have all seen pitching a fit and screaming “Mine, mine, MINE!” at the world.

Now why would I do such a thing? Human weakness? Of course that plays a part. We are all weak. But it’s more than that. We are all wounded by the imperfection of the world, and those wounds play themselves out in our particular circumstances. Above all, we don’t want to be wounded again. Ironically, this usually sub-conscious desire to protect ourselves from the pain of our wounds binds us to them even tighter, assuring their power over us.

This why we can all agree that love is such a wonderful thing but be quite selective about how we apply it. We are protecting ourselves. Not our best selves or our highest selves, but that little wounded person inside. For nothing is quite so scary as love. It opens us to wounds. It might not be returned. It might be taken advantage of.  It surrenders power and possessions and time and money. It surrenders pride. It heals our wounds not by protecting us from them but by daring us to walk right into their gaping maws.

I think this is why when Jesus talked about the neighbors in his day, he not only encouraged loving them as one loves oneself, but he picked some aliens of his own as examples. He encouraged faithful Jews to be more like a Samaritan traveler and to emulate a Roman centurion. He ate with people the “righteous” thought wicked. He was telling people to stop living out of their smallest selves. That by doing so they were not only binding themselves to the misery of their wounds but spreading it to others. That living in such a way was certainly not abundant living, regardless of ones possessions. That in fact living in such a way is not really living at all. So he encouraged people to expand their love, to widen their circles, and to risk even their lives in the attempt. For indeed, what does it profit to gain the world but lose one’s soul, and where is the finding of the soul but in the giving and receiving of love?

Considering this, I really have some work to do.

 

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The Neighbors (Part 1)

I have developed a fondness for a new sit-com that at first glance seems hardly worth any glance at all. The Neighbors is the story of a human family that has moved into a suburban community that just happens to be totally inhabited by aliens in disguise. Much of the humor is not especially sophisticated–like the fact that the aliens all have adopted the names of human athletes (and quite incongruous ones at that), drive golf carts instead of cars, and have very little understanding of human customs. They constantly do odd or inappropriate things, and seek the guidance of the Weavers, the one human family, whom they hope will give them wisdom and help the assimilate–at least to a point.

The obvious humor hides a deeper point though, and the real genius of the show. While we expect people of different cultures–or planets–to have difficulties adjusting to one another, the truth is that even among those with whom we have much in common, we still have a very hard time knowing and understanding each other. The Weavers struggle with human culture almost as much as the aliens do, and the aliens are dysfunctional in their own way in their dealings with each other and within their own personalities. A universal truth seems to be that in fact we are all aliens to all who differ from us–and everyone differs from us in some way, even those closest to us.

In a sit-com, we can laugh at this space that exists between us that we can never quite conquer. In fact, laughter is likely a coping mechanism to hide our pain, because our deepest pains are tied to this space. This is beautifully testified to in final scene of  the movie A River Runs Through It. As the lead character fishes alone, he considers his loved ones–those he “knew but did not understand”. In his reflection of that reality, he sees that all he can do is reach out to them. He is “haunted by waters” he testifies, but the waters haunt him because they whisper to him of the lives he is connected to yet disconnected from. The ones he loved and knew yet remained in some ways just beyond his reach.

So what are we to do? Religions, philosophies, even politics to some extent, grapple with this deeply human question. And all the grappling has never come away with a better answer than this: Love, love some more, then keep loving. Love even when it hurts–maybe even especially then. And expand the love–friends and family sure, but even alien and outcast. Even those who call themselves enemies. Love doesn’t conquer the space between us, but it does narrow it. It allows us to reach across and touch. To know a little closer, a little deeper. To see the human in the other. To see past labels to the person underneath. We are all aliens, but we don’t have to be enemies, and who knows–perhaps we can even be friends.

Idealistic? Certainly. Dangerous? Perhaps. But isn’t it interesting that the one road we could walk down to make the world a better place is the one road we consistently resist walking down?

 

 

Categories: Mind, Miscellany, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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